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Serbia: Goran Hadjic appears in court

Goran Hadzic, the last person wanted by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), has made his first appearance before the court today after being arrested on July 20. He was required to submit a guilty or not guilty plea, but instead his lawyers asked for and received a thirty-day extension on this deadline. Hadzic was indicted on 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity in 2004 for his role in the ethnic conflict that erupted in Croatia during the breakup of Yugoslavia.

From 1991 to 1993 Hadzic was leader of the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK), a group that fought for Serb independence from Croatia. During the fighting hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands displaced as RSK forces sought to clear about one third of the country of non-Serb ethnic groups in an attempt to establish a new state. The conflict was put to a halt only after a NATO intervention.

Hadzic’s 14 counts range from torture and unlawful imprisonment to persecution and murder of people of non-Serb ethnicity. He is also accused of helping to carry out the infamous Vukovar Massacre, in which 264 people, identified as wounded Croatian soldiers and non-Serb civilians, were removed from a hospital in the town of Vukovar and executed at a nearby farm.

Hadzic’s arrest comes only two-months after the arrest of suspected war criminal Ratko Mladic by Serbian police. Because the European Union has tied Serbia’s accession to the apprehension of all suspected war criminals, these arrests may have opened a new chapter in Serbian-EU relations by making the prospect of serious accession talks a real possibility. However, Belgrade denies that this was part of their motive. In a statement, Serbian president Boris Tadic said he believes the nation has finally “completed its most difficult chapter in cooperation with the ICTY.”

Photo: Associated Press

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Former commander of the Bosnian Serb army, Ratko Mladic, was captured in Serbia on May 26 after evading arrest for almost 16 years. He is awaiting transfer to The Hague, where he will stand trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). He faces charges of genocide in connection with the massacre of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995. His capture is a positive step towards ending impunity for genocide, Al Jazeera reported.

Bernard Munyagishari, a former Hutu militia leader suspected of masterminding the Rwandan genocide, was arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo after evading capture for nearly 17 years. He is wanted on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape. “The prosecutor [Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow] hailed the DRC authorities for their co-operation in executing the warrant of arrest, despite the hurdles encountered in tracking down the fugitive,” the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said. The ICTR indictment states that Munyagashari helped prepare and plan the 1994 genocide.

Satellite images provided by the Enough Project have confirmed that the Sudanese government has been attacking Abyei. “Images show the destruction of a southern-aligned base at Todach by tanks or other armored vehicles, fires burning at the town of Dungop, and the presence of northern attack aircrafts and bombers capable of reaching Abyei town within an hour. Images also show that a former Misseriya encampment at Goli has largely been vacated, confirming reports of Misseriya movements further south.” The Satellite Sentinel Project produced a ‘human security crisis alert’ detailing their findings.

Photo: BBC.co.uk

Vlastimir Djordjevic, a Serbian ex-police chief, has been sentenced to 27 years in prison in connection with the mass murder of more than 700 ethnic Albanians in Kosovo in 1999, the International Business Times reported. “In the large majority of cases the victims, including many women and children, were civilians, who were unarmed and not in any way participating in any form of armed conflict,” the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia stated in its verdict.

International efforts to stem the bloodshed in Libya are gaining momentum, with the United Nations Security Council scheduled to meet to discuss a draft proposal for sanctions against Libyan leaders and NATO convening an emergency session in Brussels. The New York Times reported that antigovernment demonstrators pledged to take to the streets of Tripoli on Friday, despite threats of a violent crackdown by pro-government mercenaries and security forces.

Protests in Iraq and across the Arab world show the need to resolve long-standing disputes between Arabs and Kurds in northern Iraq before they trigger conflict, Reuters reported. “As long as these issues are lurking and are unresolved, they at any moment in time can just be the trigger for conflict and polarization,” said Ad Melkert, UN special representative in Iraq.

Photo: Reuters

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